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Poet's Choice Hardcover – April 3, 2006

15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hirsch's follow-up to his bestselling, NBCC award-winning How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry collects two years' worth of his engaging weekly essay-lettres from the Washington Post Book World. Such a collection is inevitably a miscellany as it ranges from biographic sketches and personal portraits to topical subjects, reviews of new books and eulogies for the recently deceased. The 20th-century giants Yeats, Rilke and Neruda, who served as touchstones in How to Read a Poem, appear alongside such contemporary Americans as Robert Bly, Denise Levertov, Gary Snyder and Dorothea Tanning, and newcomers from Europe, Mexico, the Middle East and Asia. Hirsch also casts back to ancient traditions, although there's a gap between these and modern poets that is filled only occasionally by the likes of the rediscovered John Clare and Giuseppe Belli. Taking over the column early in 2002, Hirsch writes, he felt the burden of discussing poetry in the cultural climate of post-9/11 America. Old themes of grief and loss gain new weight as Hirsch discusses Wallace Stevens's and Mark Strand's approaches and Tom Sleigh's oblique refashioning of Greek and Sumerian verse in "New York American Spell, 2001." Eclectic and idiosyncratic, Hirsch's choices are unified by astute excerpting and keen commentary. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Hirsch celebrates poetry as a "human fundamental" in his incantatory introduction to this brimming collection of 130 masterfully distilled essays based on the famed "Poet's Choice" columns he wrote with passion and imagination for the Washington Post Book World for three years, beginning soon after 9/11. As in his cherished best-seller, How to Read a Poem (1999), Hirsch, a natural-born teacher as well as a poet, shares his extraordinary erudition and love for poetry with lucidity and intensity, empathically summarizing the lives of poets past and present, and offering poems to readers as though they are food or benedictions, gossip or prescriptions. The first half of the book is international in scope, and Hirsch writes with particular ardor about Russian, Spanish-language, Muslim, and Jewish poets who shed light on some of worst of humankind's countless tragedies. The lambent essays in the book's second half form a new map of American poetry as Hirsch stakes out territory for underappreciated and emerging writers, reveling in works of humor as well as gravitas. Hirsch's aesthetic is unerring, and his interpretations are profound as he considers our "collective destiny" and takes measure of poetry's encompassing vision. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (April 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015101356X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013562
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #600,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Bart King on April 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I prefer anthologies for my intermittent poetry reading jags, so the role of editor is important. And after looking through POET'S CHOICE, I think that a case could be made that Edward Hirsch is the most auspicious choice for poetry editor/scholar that one could make.

In POET'S CHOICE, Hirsch has brought together material from his "Poet's Choice" columns to run alongside both international poems (which comprise one half of the book) and the work of American poets (the other half.) POET'S CHOICE is further organized into chapters exploring subgenres of poetry that a layperson would not ordinarily encounter. The odd thing is, Hirsch's introductory essays are so good, one can spend as much time enjoying his prose as the poems themselves!

By providing this accessible context and thought-provoking analysis with terrific poetry, Hirsch has compiled a truly excellent book. It's sublime reading both for the short term and for the long haul as well.

Just for fun, the following is a poem by the late William Matthews, which lays out the "Four Subjects of Poetry":

1. I went out in the woods today, and it made me feel, you know, sort of religious.
2. We're not getting any younger.
3. It sure is cold and lonely...
(a.) without you, honey.
(b.) with you, honey.
4. Sadness seems but the other side of the coin of happiness, and vice-verse, and in any case, it is too soon spent, and on what, we know not what.
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Format: Hardcover
Always relevant, poetry addresses the great themes of our lives, love, loss, the modern terrors of a post 9/11 world, the scourge of war and a hope for peace. Tackling every human emotion and universal concept, poetry "puts us in touch with ourselves" as we interpret the words of the poets, personalizing and processing. This collection addresses every aspect of life, from the general to the personal perspective, our marginalized society, our place in the grand scheme of things and an ongoing dialog with history from the perspective of our own experiences. The poem is the sound of humanity, the voice of yearning and hope, restoring us to an increasingly alienating world, a private corner of the universe where we find comfort and expression.

Poet's Choice is not just another collection of great poems, but a more intimate format, the author speaking to the landscape of poetry, the language of each selection, shared anecdotes, bits of information that render each work uniquely accessible: Jorge Luis Borges' "Nightingale"; Rabindranath Tagore's "Final Poems"; Nellie Sachs' "Butterfly"; Xuan Quynh's "Summer"; Pablo Neruda's "Body of a Woman" and "Walking Around", to name but a few. This is poetry in its natural context, complex, universally appealing. Thoughtfully assembled, the poets speak the language of the world, past and present, an anthology that begs for a permanent place on a desk or bedside table, an island of personal exploration that expands souls and heals the battered heart.

"And so

it has taken me

all of sixty years

to understand

that water is the finest drink,

and bread the most delicious food,

and that art is worthless

unless it plants

a measure of splendor in people's hearts.
Read more ›
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on March 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Poetry is a necessary part of our planet." Edward Hirsch

Poet and critic, Edward Hirsch offers the reader an opportunity to experience poetry and the world in a new way in his book, Poet's Choice.

Hirsch examines and reflects on the works of more than 130 poets from all over the world and throughout history. He believes poetry is a meaningful way to look at the world and life. The challenge is to experience and appreciate life through the beauty of poetry written by both well-known and obscure poets.

For those who love poetry or have a strong desire to experience the ideas and concepts of life and death and all things in between, Hirsch's comprehensive volume is a treasure. It is worth the journey just to read his perspectives.

Armchair Interviews says: Hirsch's Poet's Choice is not for the beginner unless they have a deep desire to learn to love the written word, what it communicates and how it touches us all.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Rob Jacques on November 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
Hungry for tips on where to find brilliant, cutting-edge poets? Eager to learn about highly-talented poets with much to say wonderfully on human issues? Then buy Edward Hirsch's Poet's Choice and enjoy yourself. Each of his short chapters (three pages each!) introduces the reader to outstanding poets from around the world who have found their voices in personal catastrophe, ethnicity, life-altering experience, or sudden insight. After reading Hirsch's outstanding critiques of stunningly gifted, mostly 20th-Century poets, you'll want to buy their selected or collected works. And Hirsch's sensitive, evocative explanations of the poets' lives and poetic techniques are educational and motivational all by themselves. Hirsch, a respected poet himself, gives us lines like this one from his wistful chapter comparing poems and birdsongs: "There is something irrational in poetry, which still trembles with a holy air." And, in his chapter on the angst-driven love poems of Jane Mayhall, "There is something holy and crazed about an intensely personal grief." Hey, I'm more than ready for Poet's Choice, Part 2!
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